Two-thirds of cyclists don't stop at red lights

Proposed fines could provide massive boost to State coffers

A a woman evades a cyclist breaking the red light at College Green, Dublin

Jerome Reilly

THE heatwave appears to have turned the growing army of cyclists on our streets into lycra law-breakers.

Last week the Government announced that hefty on-the-spot fines will be imposed on rogue bike riders from next year. Some criticised the move as being heavy handed, while others said it smacked of nanny stateism.

But, as the Sunday Independent witnessed last week, Finance Minister Michael Noonan could wipe out our debt mountain years ahead of schedule if he catches all the bike riders who simply don't see red. Our snapshot survey shows the State coffers could raise more than €3,000 an hour in on-the-spot fines at just one junction – where College Street and College Green meet in the shadow of Trinity College.

The junction is a beacon for tourists, Spanish exchange students, shoppers and office workers heading to and from the key Grafton Street shopping area.

But our survey found two out of three cyclists pedal through the red lights like Dan Martin on a time trial stage in the Tour de France.

And it isn't just the couriers and hipsters on fixed-wheel bikes who flout the rules of the road.

The pretty young things in summer skirts with shopping baskets on their handlebars are just as likely to sail through the stop signals, oblivious to the pedestrians leaping out of their way.

We thought it might be a long wait to spot the amber gamblers and the red-light crashers in any numbers.

But in one short 20-minute period, between 11.37am and 11.57am, on Friday we spotted 21 bike riders who broke the lights and only nine came to a stop and obeyed the rules of the road.

11.37am: A greybeard on board one of the hugely successful Dublin Bikes blithely swerves to the right to miss a pedestrian as he sails through the junction;

11.39am: A young man in a Manchester United top pedals away on the footpath around College Street. At the same time, a middle-aged man and a pretty girl of Asian extraction smash the red lights less than 10 yards away.

11.41am: At the next change of lights no fewer than three bike riders break the proposed laws that will mean a €50 on-the-spot fine from 2014. Just one cyclist out of the four who met the red light stopped until the signal changed in their favour. And so it went on.

A Joni Mitchell lookalike on one of those fashionable Dutch-style shopping bikes; a lycra clad, Oakley-sunglasses wearing speed king on a carbon racing bike; a cool-looking male student with a trilby and baggy shorts and a beefy Italian-looking chap with designer stubble and a medallion. All broke the red lights as if it was their god-given right to put the fear of God in pedestrians.

The law was being broken once a minute – potential on-the-spot fines totalling €1,000 in the space of just 20 minutes.